Stand-Up Sit-Down: Henry Cho

Ever heard an Asian guy speak with a country accent? Tennessee native and stand-up comedian Henry Cho will hit the stage of the Improv Theatre in Addison this weekend. He is known for his suave southern accent and clean-language stand-up skits. He headlines the local Improv at least once a year and has done so for the past 20 years.

His persona and filmography is anything but status quo. Cho’s work has included the NBC shows “Friday Night” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." He also appeared on”Material Girls” with Hilary and Hailey Duff in 2006.

Despite his success as a comedian and actor, Cho still puts his family as his number one priority.

“I’m a dad and a husband first, and a comedian and actor last,” Cho said.

Cho attended the University of Tennessee -- “The other UT” as he refers to it. It was after his fifth year and sixth major when he decided to take a stab at comedy one night at a local competition. 

“I thought it was going to be a bunch of guys like me going at it for the first time, but it turns out they had been in comedy for years. I told my buddies I would try not to embarrass us and never do this again. I went up on stage, did great, got hired on Wednesday, and I dropped out of college on Friday and been doin' it ever since.”

Even though his initial success was in comedy, his ambitions were for Hollywood.

“I thought I was going to use comedy as a stepping stone, but I found out I love doing it,” Cho said.

Six months into doing stand-up he got asked to do a show with Jerry Seinfeld in Atlanta who was looking for a clean opening act and Cho was one of the only ones at the time.

“I’m a Christian. I don’t talk about nasty stuff offstage, so I sure won’t talk about it onstage.”

Cho finds himself in the middle of the American and Asian world when it comes to how he is defined.

“I don’t really have any water. People always say you’re a fish out of water. I don’t fit in 100 percent with my southern buddies, and I don’t fit in 100 percent with Korean people so I’m kind of an enigma with no water. People always say, 'Are you Korean or Tennessean' and I always say 'I’m a Tennessean in an unlikely package.'”

He was born and raised in a town where he as the only Asian guy till high school. He was considered just a guy; not an Asian guy. His primary language is English and his Korean is sparse.

“The joke I always say is, 'It wasn’t offered in my high school- so I took Spanish. My boys speak more Korean than I do because they take Tae Kwan Do.'”

Cho has a strong following with the Asian community across the US.

“More Asians come to a comedy club the weekend I’m there than any other time,” Cho mentions. “The main reason is I don’t do anything derogatory about Asians in my stand-up or acting. I’ve turned down countless roles where they wanted me to speak broken English as a stereotypical derogatory character. I say, 'No, there are plenty of Asian actors who need jobs and they have to do that, I don’t want to do that.'”

Cho is skeptical of blindly signing deals with major networks to do a show. He prefers to be involved on an executive level of production any time he gets involved.

“Every show I create, I have control. Because I’m just tired of what’s on TV. You can’t even have your kids in the room. That’s the only reason I would do a show -- not to be super famous. I have super famous friends and I don’t know if that’s for me”

When asked about his typical day, Cho beamed at the thought of getting some tee time.

“I’m a big golfer -- if I don’t get to play golf, it’s a bad day. I’m home a lot -- I only work 6-8 days a month and I’m a hands-on dad -- so when I’m home, I don’t play that much.”

Cho’s goal after every show is to put smiles on the audience’s faces.

“I want people to walk out thinking that was fun, he was funny, and he was clean.”

When asked about his future plans, Cho’s ambitions list was topped by his children.

“My goal is to raise good kids, stay as involved in our church as we can, and focus my life as a Godly man and walk that walk though this quagmire of Hollywood.”

You can catch Henry Cho at the Addison Improv June 3-6. For tickets and more info click here.

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